North Carolina is expected to take a big step forward this season after the first losing season of Roy Williams’ tenure with the team. The Tar Heels have added six freshmen, drastically improving the depth in both front and backcourts.
Coach Williams always likes to play a deep rotation, but the number of different lineup combinations is dazzling.
In his appearance on the ACC coaches’ preseason video conference, Williams said he could envision playing five freshmen on the floor at once.
That’s a rare occurrence anywhere, but particularly at North Carolina, where wholesale youth movements are rare. The last time UNC even played five freshmen in a game was 2018, when current seniors Garrison Brooks, Andrew Platek and Walker Miller were freshmen. They were joined by current junior Sterling Manley and since-transferred Brandon Huffman in 20 games that season.
Here’s how that lineup would likely look:
Point guard: Caleb Love is expected to be the latest Tar Heel to start from Day One. Williams said his backup will likely be another freshman—RJ Davis.
Shooting guard: In addition to spelling Love, Davis will get plenty of time at two-guard. Williams said the two have spent plenty of time on the floor together in the preseason, even though he warned that Davis is “undersized” for shooting guard.
Senior Andrew Platek will likely get plenty of minutes at the position and, based the Carolina program’s respect for seniority, could begin the season in the starting lineup, but we’ll see plenty of Love and Davis in the backcourt.
Small forward: Junior Leaky Black will likely be the starter and earn the bulk of the minutes. If Williams goes to an all freshman lineup, then Puff Johnson will likely man this spot.
Power forward: This is another spot where an experienced player seems to have the starting spot on lockdown. Senior Garrison Brooks should be one of the top players in the league. UNC has plenty of freshmen bigs, however, and could go with a large-but-young lineup with Day’Ron Sharpe here.
Center: Sophomore Armando Bacot will get first shot at starting, but he’ll be pushed by Sharpe and seven-foot freshman Walker Kessler. When the Heels go all-frosh, Kessler will play alongside Sharpe in the frontcourt.